Argentina - Religions

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The national census does not include information concerning religious affiliation. However, statistics submitted by nongovernment organizations in 2001 indicate that the Roman Catholic continues to claim the largest number of members, at about 88% of the population. Argentina retains national patronage, a form of the old Spanish royal patronage, over the Roman Catholic Church. Under this system, bishops are appointed by the president of the republic from a panel of three submitted by the Senate; papal bulls and decrees must be proclaimed by the president and sometimes must be incorporated into an act of the Congress. The government also provides the Catholic church with a certain subsidies that have totaled at nearly $3 million a year. However, the constitution does provide for freedom of religion and the government encourages tolerance and understanding between social and religious groups, particularly through programs of the Ministry of Interior, the Ministry of Education, and the office of the Secretariat of Worship in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, International Trade, and Worship. Certain Catholic holidays are officially observed; however, the law allows for up to three days of paid leave for those observing Jewish or Islamic holidays.

Protestants accounted for about 7% of the population. About1.5% of the population are Muslims and about 1% is Jewish. Relations between church and state have been relatively free of the conflict that has taken place in other Latin American countries. During the early part of the Perón era, there was no great opposition by the Church, but several of Perón's later actions, especially the legalizing of divorce in 1954, drew strong criticism. In 1955, Perónists pillaged and burned many noted churches of Buenos Aires, and the Church's opposition hardened. After the revolution in 1956, divorce was again made illegal. (It was legalized again in 1987.) The Church made no formal effort to halt the government's program of using terror against left-wing terrorists during the late 1970s. In the early 1980s, however, Church leaders launched a program of national reconciliation, holding meetings with military leaders, politicians, labor and business representatives, and human rights activists. A Roman Catholic revival, especially among the young, was bolstered by the visit of Pope John Paul II in June 1982, the first visit by any pope to Argentina.

Some members of non-Catholic faiths have reported discrimination in employment through the military and the federal ministries, but these reports have not been substantially verified. Anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim attitudes have surfaced in some social circles, but a number of nongovernment, ecumenical groups are working toward greater levels of understanding and acceptance through all faiths.

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Oct 11, 2007 @ 2:14 pm
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